May 16th, 2016

storyteller doll

Quick TripsAround Europe and to Two Theatres

Celebrity Death Watch: John Bradshaw wrote self-help books, popularizing the idea of the "nner child." Katherine Dunn wrote the novel Geek Love, which I admit I didn’t like as much as everyone thought I should. Andre Brahic discovered the rings of Neptune.

Weather Whine: It was nice out Saturday morning. But we’ve had rain nearly every day for weeks. Sunday was sunny enough, but horribly windy. And this morning is very cold for May.

City of Angels: I went to opening night at Next Stop Theatre in Herndon of this Cy Coleman musical. I saw a touring production of it in L.A. in 1991. My recollection is that the production was fairly technology-heavy, using a lot of film and special effects, which made me wonder how it would work in this small theatre. The answer was, alas, not as well as it should have. The actual technology lack, however, had to do with the sound design, which left most of the cast overwhelmed by the otherwise excellent musicians. (This is a fairly common problem. I used to blame actors for not being able to project, but not when it affects pretty much all of them.) The book is still funny, though I find some of the lyrics less clever than I thought they were 25 years ago. In particular, I cringed a bit at "’ll be leading an ovation, at your asphyxiation" I may have been biased by my annoyance at David Zippel’s mediocrity for The Good-bye Girl, in which he failed to execute " Sondheim-lich maneuver."

The performances were a mixed bag. Katie Keyser was appropriately sultry as Bobbi, singing "With Every Breath I Take," a song that would have become a standard had this been a 1950’s musical, not a 1990 one. But she seemed less convincing as Gabby. The best performer was Katie McManus, who played Oolie and Donna. (I should probably mention, for those who are unfamiliar with this show, that most actors double, playing one "real life" role and one "movie" role. It’s reasonably easy to tell who’s who, since the movie roles are dressed in black and white, while the real life ones are dressed in color.) The actor who I had a lot of reservations about was Grant Laughney, who I thought overdid things as Buddy. But one can’t really tell whether that was him or misguided direction.

Overall, this isn’t a terrible way to spend an evening in Herndon. But it’s more of an if you’re in the neighborhood type of thing, than one worth driving any distance for.

EU Embassies' Open House: Saturday was the annual European Union Embassies' Open House. (The Around the World Open House was the previous weekend but I was too tired from my business trip to make it to that one.) I was somewhat time-constrained, due to afternoon theatre tickets, so my friend, Paul, and I based our visits on the length of the lines to get in. Luxembourg had a bit of a wait, and was, frankly, not all that interesting. Romania was better and we even got to talk with the ambassador (who was wearing a t-shirt!). Latvia had everything set up outside, with lots of food sample – grey peas (not bad), cheese, extremely good black bread, and, best of all, chocolate. I also enjoyed talking with a young man from Daugavpils (Dvinsk in Yiddish), which is where parts of my father’s family lived at times.

Slovenia had a particularly favorable wait to fun ratio – short line and lots to do. A lot of which was, of course, food sampling. Alas, we were too early for the wine and beer tasting. We moved on to Estonia, where I talked with a spinner about Estonian wool and we got (so-so) chocolates on the way out. Bulgaria’s line was moving slowly, so I ran over to Cyprus while Paul waited. Alas, there was not much to see there, unless you were a small child who could try on their traditional costumes. When I got back, Paul was still waiting to get into the Bulgarian embassy, but I thought it was better if I left for my theatre commitment.

I had fun, but one really should use the whole day if one can. With enough time, we could have gone up to Belgium, aka chocolate heaven.

110 in the Shade: My afternoon theatre commitment was to see 110 in the Shade with Chris, a friend and former colleague. It was an excellent production of a musical I like quite a bit. (I had seen Roundabout’s production with Audra McDonald and John Cullum and, of course, I have a huge collection of cast recordings.) This is a show that really depends a lot on the quality of the actress playing Lizzie Curry and Tracy Lynn Olivera was more than up to the task. She was especially good on "Love, Don’t Turn Away," "Simple Little Things," and"“A Man and a Woman." Ben Crawford was a charming Starbuck and did an excellent performance of "Melisande." All in all, a lovely show and it is always such a pleasure to see actual choreography. Unfortunately, we were at the last performance or I’d tell you to run out and see it.

Suspended Animation: I had vague plans to go to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting on Sunday, but the topic was Ukrainian research, which isn’t particularly relevant for me. I could also have gone to knitting group. But I decided I just needed to get stuff done at home. So I only made it out of the house to do some essential grocery shopping, then alternated between reading (part of) the Sunday Washington Post and napping and didn’t really get much done at all.